The Expendables 3 - Review

Classic action movie icons like Stallone, Schwarzenegger and others currently have a hard time to hold up with this generation's action stars like Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Since their comebacks mostly failed to recapture the classic 80s and 90s vibe of action movies, Stallone's Expendables movies clearly stick out as cheesy old-school action fanfares. Regrouping every iconic action star of the old days, the previous two movies were good old brainless fun mostly aiming at audiences that grew up with the classics. And even though the Expendables 1 and 2 were solid flicks that boasted very large casts of popular action heroes, the movies never really completely took off with each one of the cast members.
With Expendables 3, director Patrick Hughes focusses on putting the old icons vs. the new blood. While this idea, along with cast additions like Mel Gibson and Wesley Snipes, is certainly something very intriguing, recent news that the movie would have a PG-13 rating to appeal to a larger audience has put quite a dent in fans' hopes and expectations.
Can Stallone and friends up the ante, or is The Expendables 3 missing the necessary bite?   

The plot:
Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham) and the rest of the team comes face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), who years ago co-founded The Expendables with Barney. Stonebanks subsequently became a ruthless arms trader and someone who Barney was forced to kill... or so he thought. Stonebanks, who eluded death once before, now is making it his mission to end The Expendables -- but Barney has other plans. Barney decides that he has to fight old blood with new blood, and brings in a new era of Expendables team members, recruiting individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy. The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables' most personal battle yet.
Source: Lionsgate 

Expendables 3's story is, just like its predecessors, very straight-forward and simple. Obviously paying homage to old simple testosterone fueled 80s action movies, Expendables 3's story doesn't want to deliver any deep messages or anything but simple brainless fun...and in that it succeeds.
Where it doesn't succeed however is the fact, that the story feels incredibly and lazily similar to 2012's Expendables 2. Once again a certain Expendables member is getting critically hurt, so that the Expendables team is out to take revenge for their comrade. It's as simple as that.
But while the previous two Expendables flicks at least showed some intention of giving a deeper background story with cultural conflicts, like the explotation of a Bulgarian village in Expendables 2, Expendables 3 has absolutely none of that. With that said, sadly, the sheer missing attempt in Expendables 3 of giving any serious meaning of why Stallone's group of mercenaries are actually fighting (except for the revenge motivation) makes the movie's story feel a bit too simple and uninspired even for action movie standards.

Another factor that drags Expendables 3's story down is the fact, that the new prime antagonist in the movie, Stonebanks, played by Mel Gibson, is kept as uninteresting and bland as it gets.
Sure, previous antagonists of the Expendables films, like Eric Roberts and Jean Claude Van Damme, were also quite some blocks away of being fleshed out, yet even they managed to be actually very despicable and hateable for the audience. Eric Roberts in Ex 1 tortured innocent villagers, Jean Claude Van Damme killed an Expendables member and exploited a village, and in Expendables 3 Mel Gibson with guns and supposedly has a grudge going on with Stallone...that's it.
There is never really given any real insight to why Stallone actually hates Mel Gibson so much in Expendables 3. Mel Gibson is just sort of there just to serve as a bad guy. Furthermore, the movie doesn't do Gibson's character any favors by only starting to let him talk when about half of the movie is already over.
Mel Gibson is a great action star of the 80s and 90s but his character is sadly pretty much a waste and as cardboard-cutout as it gets in Expendables 3.

What's his deal with Stallone again?

However, as already mentioned, one of the new (and probably only new themes) in Expendables 3 is the old action stars vs. new action stars topic...whereas "new action STARS" has to be taken with a big grain of salt here.

Realizing that the Expendables team has to evolve with new and younger members to stand the test of time against new foes, the movie sees Stallone recruit new members for his team of mercenaries, which include actors: Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell and Victor Ortiz.
While all of the four new additions, with most notably Ronda Rousey, actually do bring in a breeze of novelty to the Expendables formula, during the course of the movie they tend to have a hard time keeping up with the dynamic and charisma of the old Expendables stars.
A big factor for this is not only the fact that their characters are kept fairly uninteresting, but especially because neither of these four new blood additions to the Expendables team happen to be actual action stars in Hollywood. Calling Lutz, Rousey, Powell or Ortiz action stars would be a big exageration. Nevertheless, their presence in the movie is a nice idea to spice up the competition and  tension among the mercenary team up a bit.
Yet, it has to be said, that "true" new generation action stars like Dwayne Johnson, Jeremy Renner or even Channing Tatum would've probably fit a lot better into the category of "new generation action stars" here.

"Nothing to do here!"

On the other side we have the original Expendables consisting out of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li (and occasionally Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Unfortunately but expectedly though, some of the members yet again suffer from too little screentime. Jet Li had a total of about 10 min of screentime in Expendables 2 and it just happens to also amount to about the same roughly 10 min of screentime in Expendables 3 (he only appears during the final showdown).
What sticks out as a ridiculously dumb story-writing decision however, is the exclusion of a certain main character from the main story from early on in the movie. While Liam Hemsworth's character in the Expendables 2 bit the dust pretty early on, serving as the primary revenge motivation of Stallone and friends, the specific actor who has to bow down this time around is absolutely not as "expendable" as Liam Hemsworth. In Expendables 3, a very dominant and one of the hands down most charistmatic action heroes of the team has to take a backseat for most of the movie, having roughly only 15 Min of screentime at max. Due to spoiler reasons we will not tell you who it is, but let it be said, nobody is going to be happy to see such a favorite character having so little to do in the entire movie.

The hell, Jet Li!? You always show up late!

Yet, there are also some older action stars joining Stallone's mercenaries in Expendables 3: Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas.

Considering the his age and the on-set backstory of Harrison Ford's character in the movie, he is mainly there to replace Bruce Willis' previous character. Being the old and laid back persona that he is, it takes quite some time till Harrison Ford actually does some ass kicking in Ex 3. And even then, his action only takes form in some chopper dogfights, in which he serves as the Top Gun-esque pilot. Some might consider Ford's role in the movie a bit too tame, but seeing that Ford himself simply couldn't hold up with the muscles of Stallone, Statham and the others, his aviation oriented action parts are ultimately what fit him the best.

Two big surprises and possibly the most welcome additions to the Expendables team come in the form of Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas. Both do very great in their roles, have obvious fun with their acting performances and deliver nice comedic reliefs in the movie.
Wesley Snipes' character Doc poses as a great and slightly lunatic counter-weight against Statham's character Christmas. Both are specialized in throwing knifes, leading to both of them constantly trying to out-perform each other during fights. This makes for a lot of nice jokes during their competitive chemistry reminiscent of the one between Legolas and Gimli.
Meanwhile, on the other hand, we got Antonio Banderas, whose comedic character is very obviously not as subtlely played as Snipes', but instead successfully loosens up the over-seriousness during some scenes very well.
He is clearly the "talky one" of the group, constantly annoying the other Expendables with his overly motivated attitude. Some viewers might easily find his character annoying, a bit too kid-friendly (and partially maybe even a bit racist), yet both Snipes and Banderas clearly deliver some nice and new comedic relationships among the protagonists that were not present in the predecessors (at least not in this form).

Now that's more like it!

But the big question is, how does the PG-13 rating affect the movie's action.
Sadly it has to be said, that the PG-13 rating is very obviously present in the Expendables 3. It's a no-brainer that very bloody- and gruesome kills are nowhere present in the movie. Of course shootouts are depicted as frantic as ever, yet there is absolutely nowhere any blood to be seen. Sure, one might say: "Calm down. Only because there isn't any blood, it doesn't mean that the action is bad.". Yet, for a movie franchise like The Expendables, which so heavily wants to appeal to older audiences' nostalgia, this lack of gore indeed does make a difference! Though the action is fairly well choreographed, it lacks the loved and kind of necessary edge that made the brutal classics of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and co. such "testosterone testaments". All in all, the action in the Expendables 3 is solid, yet just lacks the necessary bite to make it standout among the standard action fare of movies like The Fast & The Furious, etc.

Another thing that becomes blatantly obvious due to the PG-13 rating, is the excessive use of cheap looking CGI during action scenes. Especially in a movie that wants to pay homage to classic old-school filmmaking, there is absolutely no reason for some of Expendables 3's explosions, chopper dogfights or even bullet hits to be computer-animated. Though they don't necessarily ruin the action scenes, they clearly stick out and occasionally pull you out of the flow.

Bumpy ride and CGI explosions ahead!

Overall, the decision to give The Expendables 3 a PG-13 rating to make it more appealing to a wider and younger audience truely shows in the final movie. Yet, however positively intended this decision was, it ultimately robs the Expendables 3 a whole lot of the franchise's nostalgic charme.
Though the theme of letting old action stars team up and compete with new and young mercenaries is quite a nice idea, the movie doesn't use most of its potential mostly due to an uninspired, run-off-the-mill storyline and Mel Gibson as an incredibly bland villain.
Along with some unnecessary use of CGI in action scenes and the lack of good old action-movie-gore, the action scenes in Expendables 3 are solid but sadly missing the necessary bite that old-school action fans loved and wanted.
However, among all those naggings, the cast additions of Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas positively stick out through their well delivered comedic relief and fun relationship to the other Expendables.

Fans of standard, harmless Hollywood action movies will maybe find joy in the very straight-forward Expendables 3. And even fans of old-school action icons like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren and friends will eventually find some fun in the sheer fact of seeing their heroes kicking ass once more on the big screen.
Yet, there is no denying that Expendables 3 is by far the weakest of the franchise yet. Narratively uninspired and boasting an ill-advised focus on appealing to younger audiences, Expendables 3 sadly lacks most of the nostalgia factor, which old-school action fans expected.

Final Verdict: 3 out of 10 

1 comment:

  1. As all the top reviews i wana say something about The expendable3 thrilling action movie in the history of year 2014 . Hopefully it will b nominated in OSCAR award due to Barney Ross character in this movie.